Author, teen poets bare their ‘Secrets’ at book launch
Event includes students reading their own works.
Parker Barry refused to cry when she held her grandfather’s hand in his hospital room, and uses her poetry as a shield against life’s swords.
Feeling vulnerable and tough were t wo pieces of prose the Wellington High School sophomore delivered to an audience of authors, writers, educators and fans during the Teens Take the Mic event at a book launch for “The Secrets We Bury” at Barnes & Noble book store in Welling ton earlier this month.
Barry’s reading of “Five Reasons Why I Write” in many ways paral l e l s t he spiritual journey of Dylan Taggart, the teen protagonist in Wellington author Stacie Ramey’s third young adult novel.
“’The Secrets We Bury’ is all about learning to express yourself, so I thought it was fitting to have a teen poetry reading at my book launch,” Ramey said. “The cool thing is, at the signing, some educators got together and talked about how to expand this poetry slam movement in Palm Beach and Broward counties.”
Ramey is on the board for The Cream Literacy Alliance, a nonprofit organization in Palm Beach County dedicated to celebrating the spoken word. The Cream asked her to organize a teen poetry reading, and she thought the best way to start was with her launch of a book about a teen who struggles with emotions and fitting in.
In “Secrets,” Dylan runs away from home to avoid a school for psychologically challenged students. As the investigators his mother has hired close in on him, he decides to head for the Appalachian Trail, a hike that takes six months — the exact length of time he needs to stay off her radar until his 18th birthday — to hide out until he can legally drop out of school.
Dylan hikes the trail “Wild T h i n g ” ( b o r r owe d f r o m “Where the Wild Things Are” – Ramey’s favorite book) and meets Sophie, with whom he develops a unique bond with, and the two confide secrets of what they’re each running from.
“By the end of the novel, Dylan realizes that he is not responsible for his father’s death, that he has a family that loves him, and will advocate for him, that going to a school with a therapeutic environment might be the best thing for him,” said Ramey, whose second book, “The Homecoming,” was a Florida Book Award Bronze Medal Winner.
But “Secrets” holds a special place in Ramey’s heart. It represents some of the kids she works with as a speech language pathologist.
“My work kids mean the world to me and I loved being able to introduce them to a larger audience, and to give reasons for why they act in ways that confound neurotypicals,” said Ramey, who works with children on the autism spectrum at Wellington High. “I hope they get to know Dylan, a neurodiverse teen, and get to love him like I do. And I hope this book makes people want to get to know people that may be hard to get to know. All kids want to feel connected to other people and things. All kids want companionship, even if they act like they don’t. We need to remember that and help them find the connections.”
The Appalachian Trail is the kind of environment that makes everything simple. You hike, you eat, and you sleep. That gives Dylan a lot of time to process his grief away from the distractions of everyday life. On the trail, he is successful. And he is surrounded by other people who are focusing on the same goals — much like the group of high school students from Wellington High and Glades Central, who shared their work at the poetry reading.
Junior Javier Sarache, a member of the Ours Poetica club at Wellington High with Barry, spoke of hearing jazz for the first time and his first snowfall in his poem about Chicago, “My Cit y, My Home.” Freshman Kimberly Galizio wrote a poem about a war that ended: “I want to see the light that brought me back to life.” And Glades Central student Rosa Macias read her poem about romance.
Barry orated the opener — five reasons why she writes. “People always ask me why I write, and I never knew how to answer, so I thought I’d make something from that,” she said.
In addition to the poetry reading, a table of trinkets from the book attracted the more than 50 people who attended the event. Trail magic (food that nice folks leave for hikers on the trail), an opportunity to pick your own trail name, and a confidential box to “bury your secrets” welcomed travelers. A table of expressive artwork from teen Kierra McFadden was also on display.
Before the teens re ad, Ramey spoke about her writing journey and how “The Secrets We Bury” is all about teens finding self-expression and their place in the world.
A s R a mey i n t r o d u c e d the student poets, she said: “These kids can be the change, we just need to hand them the mic.”
Wellington High sophomore Parker Barry opens the poetry reading with “Five Reasons Why I Write,” which mimics the spiritual journey of Dylan Taggart, the teen protagonist in Ramey’s novel.